-- Suez Canal History --

Historical outline:
The Suez Canal is considered to be the shortest link between the east and the west due to its unique geographic location; it is an important international navigation sues_logo.gifcanal linking between the Mediterranean Sea at Port Said and the red sea at Suez. The idea of linking the Mediterranean sea with the red sea by a canal dates back to 40 centuries as it was pointed out through history starting by the pharaohs era passing by the Islamic era until it was dredged reaching its current condition today.
It is considered to be the first artificial canal to be used in Travel and Trade. The Whole Idea of establishing a canal linking between the red sea and the Mediterranean dates back to the oldest times, as Egypt dredged the firs artificial canal on the planet’s surface. The pharaohs dredged a canal link in between river Nile and the red sea. This canal ran a while and then stopped until Muslims conquered Egypt under the leader ship of Amor-Ebn-El-Aas complying with the orders of Omar Ebn El Khattab. When the Portuguese discovered Ras El Raga El Saleh at the beginning of the 16th century the world trade movement changed making Egypt and Alexandria not considered the heart of it anymore.image004.jpg
After that it was Francis Delicips the one with the idea of re-dredging the Canal in (25 April, 1859) and was formally opened during the ruling of El Khedive Ismail (17 November, 1869) in a major celebration which was attended by most of Europe’s kings and Princes and the license period was 99 years from the date of opening of the canal and then it becomes after that a property of the Egyptian Government, and the French owned most of its stock.
After July 1952 Revolution, president Jamal Abdu El Nasser publicized the canal in announcement in (26 July, 1956) making the management of the canal a 100% Egyptian, which enraged the major countries leading to the Triad assault on Egypt in (29 October, 1956) which caused to the closing of the canal and it was reopened in (march 1957) and after that it was closed again ( 1976) due to the ships laying in the bottom of the canal and was not reopened again until (June 1975).image006.jpg


Stages of developing the Suez Canal:
The dredging of the canal took almost 10 years using Egyptian labor, and it was opened for navigation for the first time in 17 November, 1869. Its depth was about 8 meters, its water area was 304 m2 and the largest ship load that can pass through was 5000 tons, which was typical for ships sizes in these days. As the ships developed and increased its sizes, the canal needed to be developed, which happened when it was still a foreign joint venture before being publicized to take ships with depth of 35 feet and its water area to be 1100 m2 by the end of 1956 and when the canal was publicized by the Egyptian government on the 26th of July, 1956. The Egyptian administration was keen to develop the image007.jpg


Navigation canal even more on different stages:
In May 1962, the water area of the canal was to reach 1800 m2 and the allowed depth to 38 feet. In June 1966, a development was to be executed on 2 stages as it was announced the depth would reach 48 and 58 feet consecutively. This program was started in February 1962, but was soon halted due to the war that erupted on the 5th of June, 1967. It was reopened for international; navigation in June 1975 after purifying it from the ships that sank in its bottom during in the 1962 and 1973 wars with the same water area and depth before it was closed. The development projects then started by the Egyptian administration in order to receive ships of a 210,000 tons load, especially after increasing the water are to 4800 m2 and a depth of 62 feet , with a length of 190.25 km, in addition to the redesign of the canal's turns so that each one has a half radius of at least 5000 m and also dredging a new verge starting from the 17th km south of port said heading directly to the Mediterranean east of port Fouad to allow the loaded ships going north to go to the sea without passing through port said port. The Suez Canal is distinguished by its stable level of water which varies very slightly having the highs tide reaching 50 cm in the north while reaching up to 2 m in the south.
fadel.gifVice Admiral/Ahmed Fadel has assured head of the Suez Canal port authority, the depth will reach 66 feet by 2006 pointing out that this stage will enable all container vessels; about 17,000 container vessels; as well as taking all bulk vessels worldwide. His Excellency also pointed that the Canal will be able to take in about 99 % of all methods used in world maritime transport after reaching a depth of 72 feet in 2012, as well as taking about 99% of the dead weight tons for the bulk vessels 82% of the petroleum tanks and a 100% of all the remaining types of ships used in maritime transport; specially container vessels with all its future generations; in addition to empty vessels reaching up to 560 thousand tons.


There seems to have always been an interest in linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas, because such a link would greatly shorten the time required for trade goods that would otherwise require a considerably longer sea voyage or shipment overland. Most of the early efforts were directed towards a link from the Nile to the Red Sea, thus suezcanal2.jpgindirectly linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean through the Nile. Strabo and Pliny record that the earliest effort was directed by Senusret III, but no evidence that there was an actual canal built exists. The earliest efforts may have actually occurred at the command of Seti I or Ramesses II during the 13th century BC.
According to the Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton, under Necho II (610-595 BC) a canal was built between the Pelusian branch of the Nile and the northern end of the Bitter Lakes (which lies between the two seas) at a cost of,  reportedly, 100,000 lives. However, over many years, the canal fell into disrepair, only to be extended, abandoned, and rebuilt again.  After having been neglected, it was rebuilt by the Persian ruler, Darius I (522-486 BC), whose canal can still be seen along the Wadi Tumilat.  According to Herodotus, his canal was wide enough that two triremes could pass each other with oars extended, and that it took four days to navigate. He commemorated the completion of his canal with a series of granite stelae set up along the Nile bank.
This canal is said to have been extended to the Red Sea by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC), abandoned during the early Roman rule, but rebuilt again by Trajan (98-117 AD).  Over the next several centuries, it once again was abandoned and sometimes dredged by various rulers for various but limited purposes. Amr Ibn el-As rebuilt the canal after the Islamic takeover of Egypt creating a new supply line for cairo, but in 767 AD, the Abbasid caliph El-Mansur closed the canal a final time to cut off supplies to insurgents located in the Delta. Of course, over time, ships grew in size and so the ancient attempts to connect the two seas would not have worked anyway today.suezcanal4.jpg
The first efforts to build a modern canal came from the Egypt expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte, who hoped the project would create a devastating trade problem for the English. Though this project was begun in 1799 by Charles Le Pere, a miscalculation estimated that the levels between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea were too great (estimating that the Red Sea was some ten meters higher than that of the Mediterranean Sea) and work was quickly suspended.
Then, in 1833, a group of French intellectuals known as the Saint-Simoniens arrived in Cairo and they became very interested in the Suez project despite such problems as the difference in sea levels. Unfortunately, at that time Mohammed Ali had little interest in the project, and in 1835, the Saint-Simoniens were devastated by a plague epidemic.
Most of the twenty or so engineers returned to France. They did leave behind several enthusiasts for the canal, including Ferdinand de Lesseps (who was then the French vice-consul in Alexandria) and Linant de Bellefonds In Paris, the Saint-Simoniens created an association in 1846 to study the possibility of the Suez Canal once again. In 1847, Bourdaloue confirmed that there was no real difference in the levels between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and it was Linant de Bellefonds that drew up the technical report. Unfortunately, there was considerable British opposition to the project, and Mohammed Ali, who was ill by this time, was less than enthusiastic. suezcanal5.jpg
However, Pasha Said was very open to European influence, and in fact, was a childhood friend of Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, who ended up founding the La Campagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) in 1858 to build the canal.
This was a private company, which would build the canal under an agreement allowing it to operate the canal for 99 years, after which it would revert to Egyptian government ownership.
The pilot study estimated that a total of 2,613 million cubic feet of earth would have to be moved, including 600 million on land, and another 2,013 million dredged from water.  The total original cost estimate was two hundred million francs. suezcanal8.jpg
When at first the company ran into financial problems, it was Pasha Said who purchased 44 percent of the company to keep it in operation. However, the British and Turks were concerned with the venture and managed to have work suspended for a short time, until the intervention of Napoleon III.  Excavation of the canal actually began on April 25th, 1859, and between then and 1862, the first part of the canal was completed.  However, after Ismail succeeded Pasha Said in 1863, the work was again suspended.  After Ferdinand De Lesseps again appealed to Napoleon III, an international commission was formed in March of 1864.  The commission resolved the problems and within three years, the canal was completed.  On November 17, 1869 the barrage of the Suez plains reservoir was breached and waters of the Mediterranean flowed into the Red Sea.
The total original cost of building the canal was about $100 million, about twice its original estimated coast. However, about three times that sum was spent on later repairs and improvements.
The completion of the Suez Canal was a cause for considerable celebration. In Port Said, the extravaganza began with fireworks and a ball attended by six thousand people.  They included many heads of state, including the Empress Eugenie, the Emperor of Austria, the Prince of Wales, the Prince of Prussia and the Prince of the Netherlands. Two convoys of ships entered the canal from its southern and northern points and met at Ismailia. Parties continued for weeks, and the celebration also marked the opening of Ismail's old Opera House in Cairo, which is now gone.
The canal had a dramatic effect on world trade almost from the time it was opened, and even on world politics. Now, it was much easier for European nations to penetrate and colonize Africa. suezcanal13.jpg
Because of external debts, the British government purchased the shares owned by Egyptian interests, namely those of Said Pasha, in 1875, for some 400,000 pounds sterling. Yet France continued to have a majority interest. Under the terms of an international convention signed in 1888 (The Convention of Constantinople), the canal was opened to vessels of all nations without discrimination, in peace and war. Nevertheless, Britain considered the canal vital to the maintenance of its maritime power and colonial interests. Therefore, the provisions of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 allowed Britain to maintain a defensive force along the Suez Canal Zone. However, Egyptian nationalists demanded repeatedly that Britain evacuate the Suez Canal Zone, and in 1954 the two countries signed a seven-years agreement that superseded the 1936 treaty and provided for the gradual withdrawal of all British troops from the zone.
By June 1956, all British troops had departed and Egypt took over the British installations.
Nevertheless, various conflicts caused the closure of the canal for intermittent periods. Unfortunately, between the Suez Crisis and later wars, the canal was damaged extensively and was not operated for several year after 1967.  However, on June 5th, 1975, the canal was again opened, and since then has been updated and enlarged.
The canal stretches over 100 miles (163 kilometers) from Port Said and the Mediterranean Sea to Suez and the Red Sea and, along with other such projects, changed the face of maritime world trade. The famous canal (Translated from Arabic as Qana al-Suways) of the modern era is one of the greatest engineering feats of modern record.  At its narrowest point, it is about 300 meters wide (197 feet) at the bottom. It is wide enough to allow ships having a maximum draft of 16 meters (53 feet). The canal can accommodate ships as large as 150,000 dead weight tons fully loaded.
The Canal is really not wide enough to allow two way passage of ships, but there are several passing bays, and areas where ships may pass each other in the Bitter Lakes and between Qantara and Ismailia. There is also a railway that runs the entire distance of the canal.
The Suez Canal has no locks, because the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez have roughly the same water level. Actually, the canal does not stretch continuously from one sea to the other. It really consists of two parts each flowing into the Bitter Lakes which lies between Port Said and Suez , and it also uses the waters of Lake Manzilah and Lake Timsah.suezcanal14.jpg
Three convoys transit the canal on a typical day, two southbound and one northbound. The first southbound convoy enters the canal in the early morning hours and proceeds to the Great Bitter Lake, where the ships anchor out of the fairway and await the passage of the northbound convoy. The northbound convoy passes the second southbound convoy, which moors to the canal bank in a by-pass, in the vicinity of El Qantara. Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) reported that in 2003 17,224 ships passed through the canal. The canal averages about 8% of the world shipping traffic. The passage takes between 11 and 16 hours at a speed of around 8 knots. The low speed helps prevent erosion of the canal banks by ship's wakes.
Improvements are planned to allow supertanker passage though the canal by 2010. Presently, supertankers can offload part of their cargo onto a canal-owned boat and reload at the other end of the canal.
For tourists, the Canal Zone makes an interesting visit, though one need not, and really cannot traverse the whole of it except by ship. Outside of an ocean cruise, visiting the Canal is easiest at Suez. It can in fact be a very easy day tour, as Cairo is only about an hour and a half away. On the other hand, it could also be visited as part of a little longer tour, also taking in the Eastern Desert Monasteries and some other site seeing.

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